Sunday, 3 July 2022

Puzzling for Leisure With Stephan

After the horror of realising that I had created my videos of the skull puzzle from PuzzleMaster with quite a lot of the movement and piece removal out of the camera's view, I spent a lot of the evenings this week desperately trying to put it back together. It took all week and a lot of trial and error but gradually it went back together and my Skull is complete! Phew! If anyone has a full BT file for the puzzle then please let me know.

I have been trying to broaden my puzzling a bit recently. There are obviously some very big producers and sellers of puzzles and I buy a lot from them. This means that my blog is rather top heavy with puzzles from Eric and Jakub and the other manufacturers get seen less. I do try to branch out and try other manufacturers and also try to go back to the more mass produced puzzles a bit including getting back into twisty puzzles. Unfortunately, I seem to only have a little bit of time during the week to play and often actually solving something is a challenge in the time I have. My week this week was absolutely horrendous with a lot of big operations being done and finishing late and a fair bit of admin that I needed to do in my non-theatre time. The evenings were spent on the skull.

I had bought a couple of new creations from Stephan Baumegger (he sells via his Facebook page, PuzzleLeisure) way back in April and they had been idly fiddled with but had not really been attempted properly since they arrived. I have been leaving my new arrivals in the dining room for the last few months as a storage area to ensure that I don't lose the new ones amongst all the stuff that is solved and waiting to be put away (yes my study is a shithole again!) Mrs S looks in the dining room periodically and when she has tidied away all of her acquisitions then notices that mine are still there and then grumbles at me with a violent "I might just burn them" look in her eyes. Gulp!

This, along with the wish to try some other craftsmen's stuff, made me wander into my "accessory puzzle store" 😈😈😈 and pick up the Tetraboard and give it a try.

This puzzle is a new design from Stephan which he had originally designed way back in 2013 with the help of the incredibly talented Stephane Chomine and produced in very limited numbers at that time. At that time, my puzzle budget had been quite a lot lower than in recent years and I had marvelled at it but been either too frightened of the level (56 in total) or had not been ready to spend more money. Stephan had decided to make a few more this year and I couldn't resist the wonderful stepped look of it and the 2 contrasting woods (Wenge and Maple). 

I picked it up on Saturday morning thinking that I would have enough time to solve it that day. That was before I realised just how difficult it would be and also that Mrs S would send me out into the garden to do some maintenance work there whilst she cooked a Moroccan chilli for dinner (Yum). I managed to spend an hour on it before I was banished and had found a few moves which went nowhere and that was it. Four hours of gardening and a bout of sciatica later, I was back inside feeling sorry for myself and started again. It is quite hard to concentrate on a puzzle with lightning pains shooting down the back of your thigh! But for my readers, I persevered! It took me another hour to find a very well disguised move that would open out quite a lot more movement in the puzzle. The puzzle is made from a cubic frame and 5 plate burrs which are very tough to get oriented. I repeatedly found that if I put the puzzle down for a bit then I couldn't easily work out the correct orientation to start again. The way they interlock seriously constrains the movement and every time I thought I was getting somewhere, I came to a halt and could not seem to advance. Luckily returning to the beginning was always a simple task. 

I had explored all the paths I could find and was never able to get more than 10 or 12 moves into the solution before I came to a dead end. I was missing something. It is pretty difficult to see inside the puzzle and plan possible moves so I was stuck. At the end of the day, I went to bed with an unsolved puzzle, a headache  and back pain! Damn I'm getting old and useless!

This morning I bounded out of bed after my cat decided he was going to lick my nose, face and the top of my head! He has a very rough tongue and bad breath! Time to get up and feed him (which was what he wanted). A bit of painful exercise on the rowing machine and I was ready to puzzle again. Refreshedin body and mind and only a little residual sciatica left over. I did what I had done multiple times on the previous day and immediately found a new move. I have no idea how I missed it (it must have been very well hidden) but I wasn't going to backtrack and lose the progress. A few minutes later and the first board came out.

This was a cause for celebration but not complacency. There had been 18 moves required for the first piece and the next was going to need another 18. With the removal of the first board the puzzle was still 100% stable and a few new moves were opened up as possibilities. None of them worked and I was stumped again. The view inside was slightly better but not enough to really help plan future moves. I was missing an idea. An hour later, I had backtracked the remaining pieces almost to the beginning of the puzzle with the one board left out. I quickly realised that another sequence had been opened up from almost the beginning and a new short path was available which allowed a second piece to be removed. Yay!

Now, with 2 boards removed, it was still very stable(just a little bit wobbly) and I could properly see inside. Now I could easily mange the next 12 moves to remove the third piece and there after it was fairly trivial (it did not collapse at any point which is quite refreshing for a burr disassembly). Amazingly, I realised that one of the boards had not moved at all during the disassembly of the first 3 pieces. I had tried on numerous occasions to use it in my solution but it just was totally trapped. Very clever puzzle design. I took my obligatory puzzle piece photo:

Tetraboard pieces
All in all, about 6 hours of puzzling and now I had the extra delight of making my Burrtools file which is always part of the fun. I was definitely going to need it for the reassembly.

I love these challenges - it needs to be just the right level. I am not a burr genius like Goetz and when a first piece requires about 18-25 moves that is just difficult enough for me. If you are interested in buying any beautifully made burr and interlocking puzzles from Stephan then get in touch via his FB page.

Sunday, 26 June 2022

So Tough I May Just be Bones When It Is Reassembled

PuzzleMaster and Jerry Loo's Skull
This blog post was produced a day earlier and in a hurry because I am working the weekend yet again - the solution to this one nearly killed me and I have not even attempted to reassemble it yet! It may remain in pieces for the rest of time which is unfortunate because Mrs S actually likes the look of it.

This fabulous creation which has been mass-produced thanks to PuzzleMaster's use of a Kickstarter campaign is now available for everyone to try out but you should all be warned... the level 10 is very well deserved! This is a seriously complex and difficult puzzle. 

It had originally been designed by Jerry back in 2019 in a simpler form called Cranium which was iterated over a period of time until it reached the current (considerably harder) form. Later that year, one of the earlier versions was produced by Eric Fuller in a very limited edition (this one had 26 pieces and was called the Berro-skull). As it got more and more complex, it was only ever made by 3D printing and never in any significant numbers. Jerry has been known to produce small batches of stainless steel puzzles, one of which I reviewed (along with the PuzzleMaster anodised aluminium version) here. He did attempt to produce the 67 piece skull in steel himself but could not find a way to do it himself and his local fabricator could not work with such tiny pieces. Luckily for us all, Leon Stein (owner of PuzzleMaster) decided to spend the time and effort working with Jerry to get this produced and functional. The end result is stunning!

I backed the Kickstarter campaign but it is now also available as part of the PuzzleMaster own brand metal puzzle collection at a very reasonable price of $144CAD. Believe me, for a puzzle of this complexity with this many well-finished parts in any material, this is a very good deal. In stainless steel this is bordering on unbelievable! You could say it is a steelsteal. It is a substantial item at 7 x 6 x 5.1cm and weighing in at 800g. Mrs S straight away told me in no uncertain terms that it was not allowed anywhere near the kitchen work surface or floor tiles - if I break any of them then she would break me! For heaven's sake, don't show her the picture at the top of this blog post!

I was again too frightened to start on this for a very long time but eventually screwed my courage to the sticking point and had a fiddle. Much to Mrs S' amusement, there was no progress for an embarassingly long time. I was able to find that the wooden mouth shape was easily removable and also found another move of a single piece but nothing would slide off/out. Bugger! I think it must have taken me another 4 or 5 days before the next move became apparent to me much to my relief. This wasn't because of any flaw in the deign or manufacture - I was just rubbish and did not attempt the correct move for a long time. Having found that next move, pieces started to be removable...lots of them and I got "the fear". I quickly backtracked and put it back together again and left it for a while. Several days later, having found some more courage (I seem to recall that gin helped), I did it again and went a bit further by removing about 10 pieces. This was fun! Great fun! Then I tried to backtrack and had a pair of pieces that I could not replace - I am blaming the gin but you may think it was me being a simpleton. I was able to put it back together with that pair of pieces left outside the puzzle and after a bit of a panic, I could work out from the holes left where they went and reassembled it properly. 

That experience frightened me quite a lot and I left it alone for several weeks until my workload meant that I had to find something to solve soon or there would be no blog post this week. Once my fear of no blog post and exceeded my fear of the puzzle, I started again and decided that the best thing to do was to lay all the pieces out as I removed them and backtrack regularly during the disassembly. Of course, once I was about 10-12 pieces in, I was unable to return to the beginning and there was a huge flurry of effing and blinding as I desperately tried to work it out. Yes, I scared the crap out of myself again and decided I would take a few videos of the dismantling so that I might possibly stand some chance of reassemble. The video had to be taken over several attempts due to the need to feed a very loud Burmese cat, having to deal with Mrs S making very disparaging comments about my prowess and due to my general incompetence. I got stuck on the disassembly on numerous occasions and on several occasions had to desperately try and work out where some random piece of metal had come from after it fell out from inside with me having no clue of the original position. When I looked back at the videos to try and see where these pieces had come from, I realised that quite a bit of the recording was 1. out of focus, 2. out of site of the camera and 3. not helpful with my mystery pieces.

After about 4 hours of swearing and being laughed at I could take a photo - this is the pieces carefully arranged in a rough order that they came out in 3 batches - believe me, this is NOT a spoiler!

This may be how it stays forever more!
I have wrapped the pieces up in the white pillowcase that I have used to provide contrast for the photo to try and prevent the curious cat rearranging the order or even running off with any pieces. I hope that I can one day reassemble it - I am desperately looking at my rubbish videos to see what I can do. The review left on the PM site from Tyler (a well known puzzler and friend) states that if you take your time about the disassembly then you should manage to put it back together. I tried to do that but at some point lost track and just proceeded anyway. I think that I might be in trouble - wish me luck! There are hundreds of solutions on the PM site here but predictably this one is not amongst them - GULP!

Sunday, 19 June 2022

Qiyi Clover Pyraminx - Looks Fearsome But...

The Old Up-Up-Down-Down Works a Treat!

The Clover Pyraminx
An edge turning tetrahedron
This might be even more incoherent than my usual drivel. I have actually managed to have some time off and went to Edinburgh to visit some friends as well as relax and visit the Outlaws. A very nice relaxing time in all and a few very nice expensive meals as well. I have just arrived back home having driven 250 miles and am trying not to disappoint all you suckers lovely people who, for some reason, keep reading my rubbish. 

I had bought a few new twisty puzzles some weeks ago to try and catch up with the backlog of new toys that have come out and are being shown off by the return of Rline to YouTube. Amongst them was this Clover Pyraminx, a tetrahedral version of the edge turning Clover puzzles I have reviewed before.

I love edge turning twisty puzzles for several reasons...primarily because a lot of the solve process for them tends to be very intuitive right up to the very end game and also because they shapeshift and jumble, taking parts out of their natural orbits and often leaving all sorts of fearsome looking "sticky-out bits".
After just 4 moves!
Having seen the frightening shapeshifting, I quickly went back to the beginning and did my usual first approach for these and attempted a non-shapeshifting scramble using entirely 180º turns. It is a lovely turner but you do need to watch your thumbnails as the edges get caught and attempt to rip your nails off (YeeeeOuch!). It doesn't take long to get a nice mixed up puzzle and as expected the solve is a pleasant logical one of performing 3-cycles on the petals until they are all in place again. To you non-twisty puzzlers it sounds impossible but it really is just pure logic. The first 2 times that I did this, I magically ended up with an easily fully solved puzzle after just doing my logic solve process. At this point, my luck ran out because the centre triangles were scrambled when I had finished. For some silly reason I had just thought that solving the petals was just automatically solving the centres at the same time. As has been said by almost all puzzlers around the world: "you are not terribly bright sometimes"!

Oops! Now what?
I sat and stared at this for quite some time with absolutely no clue how to control the centres without mucking up the petals. In desperation I descrambled and resolved and from now on every single time left me with 3 centres swapped around. Not always the same ones but always three of them. It was time to Think©. I use the copyright symbol even if Allard cannot/won't do twisties because I know that if he really tried then he could easily do them. After some fiddling with the Up-Up-Down-Down combination for a while I had a Eureka moment (No, I did not make Mrs S sick by running around naked). A simple set of 4 moves moves 3 petals and leaves one centre piece from one face on an otherwise untouched 3rd edge. If I turn the third edge and undo the original 4 moves then I reverse all the petal moves but have created a 3-cycle of the centres. It is a COMMUTATOR and I found it all by myself - I am a genius! Ok, maybe not (that term refers to Derek) but having found my little set of moves I was now able to solve the simple scramble every time - Yay! Time to take the next step and do a full jumbling and shapeshifting scramble:

Oh dear! That wasn't a good idea!
Yet again I nearly lost my thumbnails and suddenly wished that I hadn't done that! The usual first stage is to return it to the original shape (it always leaves you with pieces out of orbit but you can sort that later). The process of returning to tetrahedron had me stumped again for quite some time. My first time I managed to almost do it before realising that every single edge was perpendicular to the correct orientation and I had created an unsolvable position. I corrected that and tried again. Each time I could get almost there but was always left with a protrusion (not bad for a man my age!) and yet again I had to think© - luckily for me the thinking© did not have to be deep. If I do my Up-Up-Down Down moves with a partial edge turn and it sinks the protrusions back inside...Mostly!

Where did that come from?
I managed to get it back to tetrahedral shape except there were black pointy bits sticking out and it was not terribly obvious where they had come from. They had no stickers on them and therefore were obviously internal pieces that had been left outside during scrambling and partial solving. Where did they belong? The clue to that came from looking at where they always appeared. They were always found in the place of the centres and I could eventually (after banging my head on the wall for a bit) workout that the centres were now inside the puzzle.

If you twist some of the edges until you find a little clue:
The centre is hidden in a little cavity inside the corner - in the picture to the left the red triangle is inside the puzzle and only revealed by partially turning an edge. So, how to I swap those? On various occasions, I have managed to get anything from one to 3 separate sticky-out bits on various faces. The secret to beat it? Yes, you are good at these! It is the Up-Up-Down-Down moves again. This time you need to do it with 2 edges hard turned out of place and then performing our magic sequence which returns the puzzle to proper shape. Phew! That wasn't too bad was it? Actually, it nearly killed me - all of these discoveries were over a period of 10-14 days and had my colleagues at work laughing at me when I either swore at the bloody thing for having protrusions or swore at it for injuring me. I really suffer for you guys, you know!

Once I had my shape again, I was able to do my intuitive solve using the magic sequence. This, I knew would only get me so far as some pieces will inevitably shifted out of their natural orbits and would not have been returned by the removing of the shapeshifting. Eventually, I ended up with something like this (sometimes on several faces)

Nearly solved but 2 petals are out of orbit (ignore the centres)
With the Curvy copter or related Clover cube (both cubic edge turners), this sort of issue is sorted by carrying out double jumbling moves to swap orbits until they are back in the correct orbit and then can be moved into place by intuition. There aren't enough faces to do that here and I had to adapt the magic technique to allow the fix to happen. Again we have a 3-cycle of pieces using the simple 4 move sequence but starting with a partially turned edge:

Turn one edge and then cycle those petals
Using the front left and right edges and starting with the left one, I can do a Down-Down-Up-Up and those 3 petals cycle around until they are correctly placed. After that is done with all the orbit errors, then the centres may need to be solved and you are done! Fantastic! I worked it out all by myself with only a little (alright, a LOT) of help from Allard. My colleagues were amazed and everyone thought I was brilliant.

And then I tried to do it a few more times and found something awful:

It's a 2-cycle! That's impossible!
My colleagues laughed at the look of horror on my face when I came up with this scenario. I had just 2 centres swapped and as any twisty puzzler knows, a 2-cycle is against the "law of the cube". This is just impossible. 

After my initial blank thoughts, I went back to some of my early blog posts and realised that I had an error caused by a "False equivocation". This occurs when you place a piece into position because it looks like it should go there but in reality it is out of place. This can occur either because it looks identical to some other piece or because it has no stickers to tell you where it belongs (this was the case here). I realised that I had put the blank sticky out bits back inside the puzzle but they were placed randomly into whatever vertex I found. I realised that I had inadvertently swapped 2 of this blank internal pieces with each other and had no way of knowing. The manifestation on the outside was a pair of swapped pieces but in reality it was 2 pairs of swapped pieces and this is perfectly possible and relatively easy to fix. I used my earlier fancy move to take a vertex out and swap it with a centre and then replace it with a different vertex before putting the second one back where the first had been. This invariably left me with a 3cycle of centres to do and my puzzle was done. Hooray!

This is actually a wonderful puzzle - it is not too difficult for any experienced twisty puzzler and has some interesting features to make it a must-have in the collection. I would also say that anyone who is just starting out on twisty puzzles should also obtain a copy - solve the Clover cube or Curvy copter first and then move onto this one. It takes you several steps further in your solving and learning process without being too frustrating. Just watch out for those thumbnails! It is available from most good puzzle stores - PuzzleMaster have it here, or you could try the Hong Kong stores. Well worth your money!

Sunday, 12 June 2022

Cannon Puzzle

Puzzlemaster Cannon
A real quick one today as I had to write the work rotas yesterday (including August and September with the school holidays). It took me 8 hours or more and I am fed up sitting on my arse in front of a computer!

When the PuzzleMaster Kickstarter campaign came to an end, they offered the chance to buy some of their metal puzzles and add it to the rewards that you had purchased. Most of them I already owned but the Cannon was a puzzle that I had seen before and played with (loaned by a friend several years ago - thank you Michel) but never managed to obtain my own copy. I couldn't resist it at $30CAD. This is a remake of a classic puzzle and it has been very well done. 

The puzzle is rated as 7 on PuzzleMaster's 5-10 scale and I think this is about right. It is beautifully presented and really nice and shiny in Brass with the painted red cannon trolley. The aim is to release the cannonball from within the barrel of the cannon - it is sort of a very simple sequential discovery puzzle. I did find it quite humorous that there are instructions telling me that the trolley is only for decoration/display and not to be dismantled to solve the puzzle.

In all, it took me only about 5 minutes to solve but part of that will have been because I had played with the other version, The manufacture of this is spot on - tolerances are perfect and, if you have never seen it before there are a couple of very nice Aha! moments during the solve process.

The cannonball blends in with the granite
Keep it away from cats and toddlers!
Whilst it is not difficult, it is a lovely classic puzzle that everyone should have in their collection - it is perfect for showing to non-puzzlers to get them hooked on the aha! moment. Unfortunately it is sold out  at Puzzlemaster for the moment but it is available from Brian and Sue Young in Australia here and if you don't own the Houdini's torture cell yet then go and buy it with the Cannon together (a special deal here).

Sunday, 5 June 2022

A Cat for the Mantlepiece? Yes Please, Juno!

Yes, Junichi and Yukari Yananose have done it again! They have created a masterpiece that is fun to solve, a nice challenge for a puzzlebox newbie like me and have also made something that Mrs S approves of and wants displayed in the living room.

Back view
Mittan is the name of their own rather lovely Ginger cat (I have a photo so I know that she is lovely). I cannot resist these puzzles from Juno and despite the relatively steep price, I immediately decided it was a must buy. I also knew that Mrs S, as an archetypal crazy cat lady, would not object to this one (I haven't actually told her the price though). We originally started with our lovely Burmese cats in the hope that having real cats might decrease or even stop the ever increasing accumulation of cat substitutes around the house (this was silly of me in retrospect). The entire house has cats stuff everywhere and now it has one more item. Juno absolutely despises the puzzle flippers who only buy to make a profit and hence the price was made high (the woods and work carried out were quite expensive) and for this reason he also made a larger number than usual - 150 in total (as of writing this there remain 13 in stock). The woods making up this startlingly beautiful puzzle include Zebrano, Golden Sassafras, Fijian Mahogany, American Black Walnut, Europian Beech, Amoora, Silver Ash and metal parts (including magnets). It was initially available with the opportunity to buy either dark, medium or lighter Zebrano but the dark has sold out. I actually chose a medium to have a very marked grain pattern. I was not disappointed - it is stunning and even Mrs S liked it.

There are two aims with this puzzle - to see how they managed to put a bell on(?in) the cat and to find the fish that Mittan has eaten - it is supposed to be a Taiyaki (a sweet in the shape of a sea bream). I am not going to take you through the solution - you need to buy it or borrow a copy and do it for yourself. 

The solution of this actually took me a whole week! It arrived unbelievably quickly considering the distance that it had gone and I set to straight away. There are a few pieces that are obviously intended to be manipulated and quite quickly a sequence of interesting moves builds up. After a short while you get to do things that you really shouldn't be doing to a cat but try to bear in mind that it's not a real cat and carry on. After the first few moves, I had a couple of pieces and got stuck. It is quite different to the other SD puzzles from Pluredro and nothing I had done before was terribly helpful. Eventually, I worked out what the next move needed to be and I had a new tool and a possible place to use it. My initial attempts at using that tool completely failed - the rest of the puzzle needed to be in the correct positions for it's use to work. Eventually the dismemberment continued...poor Mittan!

Continuing my odyssey into cat dissection, I reached a point where I had more tools and an obvious way to use one of the new ones but it was locked tight. This needed some of Allard's thinking© and I proceeded to dribble into my coffee in the evening. One more Aha! moment produced a critical movement......of about 4mm before it stopped dead. Flummoxed again! I tried the same move over and over and over again in the hope that maybe I had done it wrong the first 8 or 10 times. Needless to say, nothing changed with subsequent attempts and I proved that I met the criteria for madness...again!

At some point I did wonder to myself whether the prize inside might have blocked the mechanism but I know Juno too well. This just does NOT happen with his puzzles. I was missing something. In fact, I missed it for 5 evenings of increasing desperation. Finally, whilst idly playing with all the pieces in a pile, I made an unexpected discovery. Now that should not be there! Unless, of course, Juno had put it there for a reason! I looked for any way that I could use my discovery and I was rewarded with a sudden movement of the piece I wanted. I finally had the bell from/for poor Mittan. It is hidden behind the spoiler button (it's not much of a spoiler but don't risk it unless you really want to).

Once you have found the bell, you have also found the fish that Mittan had eaten:

At least he didn't put a loaf of bread in it - this proves it's NOT a box
The reassembly back to a complete cat with all the pieces inside is a nice sequence which only partly needs to be a reverse of what you did to open it up. I loved it and have done the whole thing multiple times since my first solve. The clever (and not hugely difficult) solution is fun to do and does have an element of the worry bead in several parts. I did not show the dismemberment to my own boy despite him sleeping on my lap through much of it. I didn't want to give him nightmares as he already wakes me up at 5am every day demanding food and attention!

Having finally finished playing with this wonderful creation, which, I must say, was worth every penny of the price. I asked Mrs S whether I should put it into my display cabinets with the rest of Juno's puzzles? She actually said that it should go on display on our mantlepiece alongside quite a few other animal figurines and puzzles:

An embarrassment of cats!
There are several cat puzzles on show (Maahes the line from Stephan Baumegger, Burrlephant from Jerry McFarland, Jack Krijnen's Bison from Jakub Dvořák and the Elephant also from Jakub Dvořák. As you can see, there are quite a few porcelain cats and the elephants that I inherited from my late mother (she grew up in Kenya and had elephants in her garden as a kid).

I think I might just attempt one of the new twisty puzzles next. I do still want to try and review puzzles that are a little less expensive to help the puzzlers out there who may be a little more price constrained than me.

Sunday, 29 May 2022

Masterpieces Ahead

Upcoming delights from Pelikan
Last week I tantalised you all with the news that there was soon to be a new release of lovelies from our wonderful friends and enablers at Pelikan and luckily for me I have been home alone all week whilst Mrs S is up visiting the out-laws. It hasn't been all plain sailing and puzzling as the usual chores that she would have done have been left to me as well as work as always. I also have to pay especial attention to our rather disturbed cat who is still missing his brother and is prone to wandering the house wailing at all hours of the day and night. But even with those distractions I still managed to work my way through all seven of them and I present my reviews for you here and then once I have edited and sent them to Jakub the puzzles will go on sale probably within a week.

The releases this time are:
We have (from back left):
Hippo designed by James Fortune
Stir the coffee designed by Dan Fast
Boo Burr designed by James Fortune
Four Mirror One designed by Osanori Yamamoto
Fermat meets Fuller designed by Dr Volker Latussek
One Flower designed by Osanori Yamamoto
Time - 4 - T designed by Alexander Magyarics

Time - 4 - T

Time - 4 - T 
This was the first puzzle I worked on because I am always intrigued by everything that Alexander designs. This diminutive and very pretty puzzle is made from Maple and Purpleheart and is vibrantly gorgeous despite being only 42mm across each side and 15mm thick. It's as portable as any Hanayama puzzle and much more pretty. Alexander has been emulating Osanori Yamamoto again with a puzzle consisting of 4 shapes trapped in a frame requiring them to be removed. This is a new idea for Alexander and yet again he shows his mastery of all aspects of puzzle design. Also on show is the Pelikan boys mastery of woodcraft - despite being so tiny, every piece has been made with supreme precision and the movement of everything is smooth and perfect. I did wonder whether rotations might be essential and I will let you discover whether or not that is the case. This is not a difficult puzzle but it is delightful to explore with some nice Aha! moments as you work through.

Simply perfect and precise
Having dismantled it, I would advise leaving the pieces for a few hours before trying to reassemble. It is definitely achievable and leaves you with a great sense of achievement. This is a delightful beginning to my week of Pelikan play.

Four Mirror One

Four Mirror One
This lovely puzzle by Osanori Yamamoto looked very familiar to me but I could not recall where from. After taking my photo and having a fiddle, I realised that I had another copy of this made by Brian Menold way back in 2015. This version by Pelikan is made from Wenge and Ash with a very striking grain enhancing the beauty. At that time, I had managed to disassemble the puzzle within a few minutes and found the reassembly the real challenge. Back then I must have been much better at puzzling because this time taking it apart took me about 30 minutes. Like many of Osanori-san's delightful frame-based creations, there are multiple rotations required to remove the pieces and with this one there are a huge number of rotational moves possible in multiple positions. On a couple of occasions, I had rotated several of the pieces but found myself unable to move further but also could not remember how to return to the beginning. There are no fancy hidden rounded edges here that allow special moves - it is a matter of making the right amount of space to facilitate a rotation before then moving on to the next piece and eventually orienting one of the pieces into the position where it lines up with a T shaped gap and gan slide out. After that the removal of the rest is easy.

Fab - all the T's are identical
Just like last time I played with this puzzle, I left the pieces for a few hours before the reassembly was attempted and this was again a significant challenge for me. It took me even longer than the 40 minutes back in 2015 - I am slightly ashamed to admit that it took me nearly an hour! Great puzzle - if two separate craftsman make it then it probably is good!

One Flower

One Flower
The second of Osanori-san's designs in this release is another frame and burr piece puzzle. This one is utterly gorgeous made from Padauk and Garapa. There are 2 pieces that straddle the frame and there is a decent sized hole in that frame for the pieces to come out but the pieces are almost the same size as the hole and need to be moved into a certain position for them to be releasable. Easy peasy, I thought! Move them around - rotations will be required as usual and this should not take me long. Wrong! At each corner of the frame is a square peg which severely limits the rotations (and other types of moves) and I found myself completely blocked. I realised after 15 minutes of trying the same thing over and over again that I must be missing something. Alternative directions of rotation maybe? Nope! I put it down for a while and only when returning to it on a second day did a thought permeate my dense skull. This must require something special - what if I try... Aha! I don't recall Osanori trying this before.

Nope! No spoiler here - not showing the pieces
The reassembly is fairly straightforward since there are only 2 pieces and a frame but the delight in the special sequence remains. This is one that I will probably be handing out to friends and colleagues to play with and will enjoy watching their confusion when want they want to do won't work.

Stir The Coffee

Stir The Coffee
The first of two absolute masterpieces in this release, Stir The Coffee is a significantly complex burr puzzle intended for people who really enjoy burrs - it is not for the beginner. I have known Dan Fast for many years (it may be nearly a decade now) and he comes across as a loud, brash Canadian with big opinions (you only need to view some of his videos on his CrazyBadCuber channel to realise this). But one consequence of Dan's personality is that when he starts a hobby or project he totally immerses himself in it and ABSOLUTELY masters it. He has been playing with Burrtools for a good few years now and has created some fabulous designs which he puts on Puzzlewillbeplayed and Facebook. Dan's own personal preference is for really high level burrs but he is in touch with the rest of the puzzling world and realises that such puzzles are a very small niche. As part of his mastery of the art of design, Dan has worked out exactly what the average burr puzzler wants...a challenge with a moderate level that remains stable during play. He also has a superb eye for aesthetics and makes shapes that are just beautiful. At a level of 54.4.2, this puzzle was a higher level than I would normally like (I find that anything above 30ish gets too complex for me to keep a track of the moves and possibilities) but yet again Dan has shown his skill - despite requiring so many moves, there are remarkably few false paths and those that are there, are short or circular leading back towards the original path. The challenge here is to discover the correct moves which are remarkably well hidden. The structure is extremely stable throughout and the pieces dance back and forth to stir the coffee in the rather beautiful cup before the simple but stunning teaspoon is removed and then you can empty the cup.

It's a masterpiece
The disassembly took me a good few hours in total with several periods of going round and round in circles trying to find the moves that I was obviously missing. Despite the extremely high level, it was always possible to backtrack to a place I recognised and start again. Only once I was very near the finish did I get lost but then the only way was forward. This is an absolute masterclass in burr design - Dan has got it absolutely right with a beautiful look, a high level but very achievable for anyone used to playing with burrs. Of course, Jakub and Jaroslav have brought this to life in a simply spectacular way. I cannot wait to see whether they produce anything else.

Fermat Meets Fuller

Fermat Meets Fuller
I have to start the review with these simple words:
"Buy this puzzle! It is incredible!"
Dr Latussek has a very strange mind! I do not understand how he designs these things - Burrtools is no use for them, he must do this in his head. This is not normal, there is absolutely nothing in my head at all let alone complex geometric manipulations. Volker has created several packing puzzles over the last few years and I have only ever managed to solve a couple of the simpler ones - it is telling that one had "for kids" in the name. So when I received the Fermat for Fuller, a few things raced echoingly through my empty noggin. First was the memory that I had not yet managed to solve the original Fermat (I had reviewed it unsolved here and Allard had reviewed (solved) it here), and secondly I wanted to know why it was meeting Fuller? 

Volker told me:
"with FERMAT I wanted to learn how triangular parts interact with one of my typical boxes. When I talked to Eric Fuller about this, I came up with the idea of dividing a cube into six triangular parts and in placing this cubic dissection I had a long and clarifying conversation with Eric Fuller some time ago. Then I had the idea to dissect a cube (cubic) into triangular parts (Fermat). Fermat meets Fuller was born.
Pelikan has created this using American Walnut and Merbau (which has stunning grain with amazing looking end-grain faces. The precision required for this puzzle is something to behold - it is simply perfect! Only Jakub and Jaroslav can do this in large numbers! 

Delivery configuration
I even struggled to dismantle the delivery position
I took the two loose pieces out of the box and saw the other four in the base and tried to remove them - I couldn't take them out - this was going to be a challenge! Once I had removed them then I had seen the kinds of manipulations that are possible and hoped that would arm me for the solution. I am terrible at this kind of challenge and did not hold out much hope but once I had seen the possible moves and that there was actually quite a bit of room in the box and a relatively large opening, I had a few ideas.

Needless to say, my ideas all failed for the first couple of days of trying. The next thing to do was to look at how many ways the base layer could be arranged, and then see how I could place the extras in the top layer - this is the real challenge - placing a base layer is fairly easy but this really blocks any space left for getting later pieces inside. After 3 days of failure I was becoming increasingly desperate and was losing hope. I then had a large Eureka moment (no, I did not leap out of the bath and run around naked - even with Mrs S away). I had found an arrangement that would leave a very nice gap to place the final pieces but then had to see whether I could place the first pieces in that position. I was stuck...until I realised that the relative thicknesses of the thick, medium and thin triangles had all been very specifically chosen. These pieces had been designed to allow one very very special sequence of moves. IT IS STUNNING! Volker has out done himself - this puzzle is a design masterpiece and is an essential purchase for any serious puzzler. As I said earlier: 
Believe me, you will not regret it!



Recently Pelikan have produced a series of wonderful puzzles that contribute to Goetz' Burr zoo and I was very pleased to see them continue this with the Hippo. This one has been designed by a relative newcomer to puzzle design, James Fortune, who I have been watching on Facebook for a year now. James has also set up a shop selling his designs that he has 3D printed (I have not tried any of these but they look amazing). For a design to be accepted by Jakub and Jaroslav, it must be pretty special - they always prototype them and check for poor design features like lack of stability or not a fun solve. The Hippo is a wonderful creation which is perfect for all puzzlers interested in burrs. It is beautiful, having been made from Maple, Purpleheart and Walnut with a wonderful bevelled finish and a lovely surprise once you find the correct start of the pathway. It is this first step that I struggled with the most. There are a couple of moves that are nice and easy to find and they are the wrong ones because they lead nowhere. I had taken this to work to play with and during a lunch break people watching me were extremely disappointed to see me go around and around in circles getting nowhere. Luckily I had to work again and used that as an excuse to stop making a fool of myself. 

Eventually I found the very well hidden first moves and I was on my way. This puzzle has a level of which is absolutely perfect. There are a few blind ends but none terribly deep and a lovely wide circle where a lot of possibilities lead you astray. I managed to get the first piece out relatively quickly once I had found the initial moves but the removal of the next two pieces took me a VERY long time. I could always return to the beginning but I was missing a well disguised move which I finally found yesterday. Usually with these, they become very unstable after a few pieces have been taken out but this one does not. It becomes sort of "squishy" and there are a few possible rotations that need to be controlled but with a little effort the removal of all the subsequent pieces can proceed without collapse right down to the very last pair. This is nothing short of extraordinary! During the solution, the hippo moves about a little but remains fairly static with just the sticks moving around him - he really gets in the way! There is also a particular feature of a couple of the burr sticks that links them together - it does look like they should separate on several occasions but they are firmly hooked up.

Beautifully made and a beautiful design.
I currently have this in pieces next to me and have created a BT file (a huge part of the fun) and look forward to reassembling it and trying again. If you enjoy burrs or want to try them out then this is a perfect puzzle for you.

Boo Burr

Boo burr

This is another creation from the prodigious mind of James Fortune and is also a member of the Burr zoo. It is simply gorgeous made from Wenge, Zebrano with Maple pieces hidden inside. I was a little mystified at the name initially but the reason for it becomes apparent very quickly when (at least the way I had it orientated) a white piece unexpectedly drops out of the puzzle into your lap onto a sleeping cat who shot of reminding me that he had a VERY sharp claw that I needed to clip. Yeeeouch! Picking up the fallen piece, I see why the puzzle is called the Boo burr. Genius. Getting to that first piece removal only requires 5 moves (the whole puzzle has level but finding the sequence took me a while. Again the critical position to find is quite well disguised. Once out there are quite a lot of possible paths and I struggled to work out where to go. I think I found the next piece removal by luck more than anything as it required a further 17 moves. From there on, the path is a nice gentle exploration of burr moves which, again, leaves you with a stable, if squishy, puzzle for the entire remainder of the disassembly. The seventh piece removal provides another surprise:

We have two ghosts in the burr!
I will need Burrtools to reassemble it but that is just as much fun as the exploration and disassembly. Another fabulous burr from Pelikan that will keep all us burr enthusiasts very happy!

So we have yet another phenomenal release coming up from Pelikan soon and there are definitely puzzles that you won't want to miss out on. The Fermat for Fuller and Stir the Coffee are essential puzzles in my opinion - absolutely masterpieces of design and craftsmanship! After that, you have quite a few wonderful puzzles to choose from - do you like burrs? Then the creations by James are just the right difficulty level. Do you like these stunning sequential movement puzzles? Then the designs from Osanori-san or Alexander-san are brilliant! Keep an eye out - I don't know when they will go up for sale but it won't be long!